Success Stories | Bariatrics | Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital | St. Louis, MO

A Life-Changing Weight loss Surgery for Patients

Nurse practitioner, Jayme Sparkman and patient Shaleke Russell, about one year after bariatric surgery.

Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital’s bariatric surgical program receives national accreditation

After years of being teased for being too thin, Shaleke Russell says she found a certain amount of comfort with her increasing weight gain. Unfortunately, with the added weight came increasing health concerns.

“When I was around 25 years old, I started gaining weight and couldn’t lose it. I was eating lots of fried and unhealthy foods,” says the 39-year-old Urbana, Ill., resident. “Eventually, my doctor told me I needed to make changes.”

Although she was active, Russell says her weight was not coming off. She was at risk for diabetes and faced other health concerns like high blood pressure and sleep apnea.

“When I first thought about having bariatric surgery to lose weight, my doctor did not want me to do it,” she recalls. “He thought it would be better for me to try diets. I did a high-protein diet and lost 50 pounds, but I wasn’t able to keep it off because I had a lot of stress in my life.

“My parents both got cancer, and I had to take care of them. I had to leave my job, and I couldn’t afford a special diet, so the weight came back,” she added.

Shaleke Russell, before surgery
Shaleke Russell, before bariatric surgery.

Russell lost both parents in 2013, and her own health continued to decline due to the stress and her poor eating habits, she says.

Bariatric surgery: life-saving decision

While working nights as a shift lead for Kraft-Heinz Food, Russell was on her feet all of the time and her body couldn’t handle her increasing weight gain, which reached a high of 289 pounds.

“My health was going downhill fast, and I started thinking about bariatric surgery again,” she says. “This time my doctor said I should do it.”

Early in 2016, Russell reached out to a relative who worked in the Washington University bariatric surgical program at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital. At Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, Washington University physicians offer both nonsurgical and surgical options to help patients achieve permanent weight-loss goals and live a healthy, active life.

“I wanted to be better educated about the surgery because I was afraid of the risks and wanted more information, but after I got the OK from my doctor, I started the process,” Russell says.

She soon became a patient of Christopher Eagon, MD, Washington University bariatric surgeon, who has performed more than 3,000 bariatric procedures at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital and Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

The Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital bariatric surgical program was recently recognized with national designation as a Comprehensive Center under the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program. This designation recognizes the hospital for meeting the highest quality standards in delivering bariatric patient care.

“I feel rewarded every day when I see the results of this surgery in the life-changing alterations to my patients’ health and the quality of their lives,” says Dr. Eagon, who adds that the recent recognition validates the quality of the bariatric surgery program.

Taking the next steps: managing expectations before and after weight loss surgery

Russell, like most bariatric surgery patients, was required by her insurance to undergo a series of steps before qualifying for surgery. The first step was to attend a group information session, where Dr. Eagon and his staff explain all that is involved, including expectations before and after the surgery, as well as what it means both physically and emotionally.

“My insurance required me to see a dietitian and counselor for three months before approving me for surgery,” says Russell, who drove five hours round trip between her home and the hospital. “Everyone really worked with me to make sure my appointments were all on the same day. I really appreciated that so much.”

During the information session, patients also learn more about the three approaches to surgery, which include laparoscopic gastric bypass, adjustable gastric banding and gastric sleeve

Russell chose the gastric sleeve procedure, which changes the shape of the stomach from a large sac to a tubular or sleeve-like shape.

Weighing 266 pounds at the time, Russell’s surgery at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital was on Nov. 18, 2016, and she went home three days later.

“I had to stay one extra night because my blood pressure was high,” she says. “Dr. Eagon and everyone at the hospital were wonderful. They all took very good care of me.”

A week after her surgery, Russell says her blood pressure was down, she no longer needed her cholesterol medication and soon after she could sleep through the night without a sleep apnea mask.

Feeling healthy after gastric sleeve bariatric weight loss procedure 

“I feel amazing. I’m healthier and not restless anymore,” says Russell, who almost a year later weighs approximately 190 pounds. “Since my stomach is smaller now, I am unable to eat as much, and I am eating healthier.”

Active in her church, Russell enjoys staying busy outside of work with friends and family and has found more time to travel.

“This has all taken some getting used to. I just bought a dress in a size 10/12, and I don’t remember the last time I wore that size. I was comfortable with my old self, but I am not going back. This sent my body into a good shock,” she says. “My goal was never the weight loss, but to be healthy.”

Information Sessions: learn more about surgical and nonsurgical options for weight loss

If you are struggling with your weight, we encourage you to learn more and attend one of the upcoming information sessions.

Contact Us for Bariatric Weight Loss Treatment

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a bariatric physician, call Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital at 314.542.WEST (9378) or toll-free at 844.542.9378.

Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital is conveniently located just one mile west of I-270 in Creve Coeur, Missouri — a west county suburb of St. Louis.

The Washington University Bariatric Surgery office is located in Medical Office Building 1, Suite 120. The address is 1040 North Mason Road, at the corner of North Mason and Olive Boulevard. Get directions and maps.


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